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Snap election: to call or not to call

  • "If the various parties that currently make up the opposition can negotiate this situation into reality, then I might go so far as to say that a snap election in Selangor could be a brilliant idea."

By Mohsin Abdullah

I don't remember when or who asked the question. It was a long time ago. But the question I can recall easily.

A reporter had asked Tun Mahathir Mohamad who was then prime minister if he would call for a snap election anytime soon. =

Mahathir smiled and replied, "I don't hold snap election. Only SNAP can hold a SNAP election." He was referring to the now defunct Sarawak National Party known by its acronym as SNAP.

Obviously Mahathir said that in jest. He was joking.

But seriously a snap election is an election called earlier then expected. Generally it refers to an election in a parliamentary system called when not required (either by law or convention), usually to capitalize on a unique electoral opportunity or to decide a pressing issue.That's how Wikipedia puts it.

Of late we've been hearing a lot of snap elections. Rather the call to call for snap elections.

In Penang, the DAP-led Pakatan government wanted to call a snap election following the draft charges against chief minister Lim Guan Eng, in a bid to seek a fresh mandate from the people.

In BN-ruled Terengganu, we heard of talk for a snap election to "settle" the feud between former menteri besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Said with current menteri besar Ahmad Razif. Such talk has quietened a bit now.

As we know, DAP subsequently decided not to hold a snap election in Penang after listening to the views of their Pakatan partners who were against a snap election and reservations from quite a substantial number of the public.

However DAP is now keen to call a snap election in PKR-helmed Selangor as a way to "beat" the redelineation exercise carried out by the Election Commission which Pakatan sees as "giving big advantage" to the BN. Both the EC and BN have denied this of course.

Still Pakatan maintained that the EC exercise was "racial electoral manipulation with pro-opposition (Pakatan ) polling districts shifted from safe opposition to marginal opposition seats".

Since the power to call for snap elections usually lies with the incumbent, more often than not the election results see increased majorities for the party in power having been called at an "advantageous" time.

I don't know if the situation in Selangor now can be termed "advantageous time" but if the state government is perceived by the rakyat as to have been "bullied" by the authorities (read EC and BN ), then they could very well be returned to office with bigger majorities.

Perhaps that's the thinking of DAP in urging for a snap election in Selangor, and in Penang earlier this year.

However there have been cases of snap elections back firing - resulting in opposition parties winning or gaining power.

And perhaps this is what is in the mind of Selangor menter besar Datuk Seri Azmin Ali in turning down DAP's suggestion? Despite the fact the mandate given to his administration (as is the case in Penang ) is massive.

On record Azmin is said to be looking at ways to tackle the redelineation exercise by "fighting" directly with the EC.

Still, one does not have to be a political pundit to know that seat allocation among Pakatan partners and allies (well at least one ally in Parti Primbumi Bersatu Malaysia) is a "headache". To put it mildly.

The big questions are: who to contest where? and who sacrifice what? We know the story.No need for elaboration here.

In all probability Azmin is looking hard at those questions seeking for the right formula. Especially so given the unique situation where his administration is a Pakatan Rakyat outfit of PKR-DAP-PAS although Pakatan Rakyat has been replaced by Pakatan Harapan which PAS is not part of.

Which brings me to a piece written by writer cum publisher (also former PKR man) Nathaniel Tan in Malaysiakini recently.

Here's some excerpts of his article : "All things considered, I might argue there is one condition for which holding a snap election in Selangor in the near future would be a good idea: if allocation for every single seat can be negotiated and publicly guaranteed beforehand to be a straight one-to-one fight between one opposition and BN.

"If the various parties that currently make up the opposition (including PAS, Amanah and Bersatu) can negotiate this situation into reality, then I might go so far as to say that a snap election in Selangor could be a brilliant idea.

"However, short of this condition being fulfilled, it seems likely any attempt to call a snap election in Selangor will end up in disaster."

Agree. This is what many people have been saying also.

To state the obvious, the Selangor formula can be the blueprint to be used nationwide when Pakatan and Co face the next general election.

(Mohsin Abdullah is a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)


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